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Grain expectations: farmers grim going into harvest time

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Optimism runs low about crop yields after hail, heat and dry conditions

By Lisa King

Agriculture officials say that between a hailstorm, searing temperatures and dry conditions, this year’s harvest may not yield what it normally does.

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But despite that, said Adam Haggard, county executive director for the USDA Farm Service Agency, expectations have come up a bit since the hailstorm that struck in July.

“The feedback I have got from farmers so far is that the tobacco is not as bad as they originally thought [right after the hail storm],” he said. “There could be some quality issues after all is said and done, but they generally feel better about it than they did.”

Some farmers, especially those from Eminence to around Southville, experienced about 40 percent damage to tobacco crops, and overall around the county, there was about a 10 percent loss in corn and soybeans, Shelby County Extension Agent Brett Reese said at that time.

On Wednesday, however, he was a little more optimistic about the tobacco situation.

“It’s still a waiting game, but at one point, some farmers thought their crops were going to be a total loss, but they have been able to salvage something,” he said.

Conditions have been drier recently, and temperatures have continued at a record-setting streak of above-average days. Cooler weather is expected today, but the high Thursday was 94, which has been pretty close to the average for the past three months.

 

Soybeans, corn struggle

And because of that, Reese said, some crops continue to have issues.

“The dry weather hasn’t helped the soybeans; that will be a bad crop,” he said. “And it may be too early to tell about the corn.”

Doug Langley, who runs a huge farming operation on Taylorsville Road and lost half his tobacco crop to hail, agreed with Reese’s estimate.

“The dry weather has really hurt the soybeans,” he said. “I have twenty-seven-hundred and fifty acres in soybeans and will only get about one-third of my usual yield, because soybeans need a lot of moisture.”

Langley said he doesn’t know yet about his corn crop.

“I have twenty-five-hundred acres in corn, and it’s really drying up, too, but I won’t know about the yield until it’s harvested, and I’m getting ready to do that soon.”

Farm Bureau Agent Ferenc Vegh reported the same type of feedback from the farmers with whom he has been in contact.

“The guys who planted late to get a double crop [of soybeans] are not doing well, and the corn also is not good,” he said.

 

Grapes have thrived

But Veigh has a crop of his own that he said actually  has benefited from the hot, dry conditions.

“My grapes are doing great because they need plenty of sun, so they are flourishing in all this dry weather we’ve been having,” he said. “Also, dry weather gives grapes a greater sugar content, which is also very good for them.”

The Vegh-Davis Vineyard, which Vegh owns in Southville with Lisa Davis, encompasses 5 acres on which they planted 3,500 vines, including two varieties of white grapes, traminettes and vignoles, which are hybrid French-American grapes, somewhere close to the middle between sweet and dry.

A special election held last November will allow Vegh and Davis to open a winery in that area.

“We shooting for next spring to build the winery,” he said, adding that he will be picking grapes this weekend. “This will be our first harvest.”

Vegh’s family has been in the wine-making business in Hungary for nearly 1,000 years, he said.

His winery will become Shelby County's second; Talon Winery opened last year on Gordon Lane.

 

Help available

Haggard said farmers in Shelby and six other counties are eligible for federal disaster assistance, including low interest emergency loans from the USDA’s Farm Service Agency, provided eligibility requirements are met.

Farmers interested in applying for assistance should contact their local Farm Service Agency office, which in Shelby County, is 633-3294.